'It's the pope's loss': Ballarat sex abuse survivors speak after return from Rome
March 06, 2016
|Catholic church child abuse survivors arrive back in Melbourne after travelling in Rome to meet with Cardinal George Pell (left to right): Andrew Collins, Phil Nagle, Gordon Hill and David Risdale. |
Photo by Mal Fairclough
Child sexual abuse survivors from Ballarat who flew to Rome to watch Cardinal George Pell give evidence say it’s the pope’s loss he didn’t meet with them at the Vatican.
The group of survivors arrived back in Melbourne on Sunday morning after a crowdfunding campaign made it possible for them to fly to Rome to witness Pell give evidence at the royal commission into institutional child sexual abuse.
Speaking at Melbourne airport, the group called on Australia’s prime minister to commit to a national redress scheme for abuse victims.
“A lot of people might think this is the end of our journey. It’s not,” abuse survivor Andrew Collins told reporters.
He said clerical abuse in Ballarat – including that by Australia’s worst pedophile priest, Gerard Ridsdale – and its long-term effects on victims highlighted the importance of supporting survivors.
“We call on the Turnbull government to put into place the redress scheme that the royal commission has put forward,” Collins said. “The longer he holds off, the more people will die.”
David Ridsdale – who was abused by his uncle and Australia’s worst pedophile priest, Gerard Ridsdale – said the group was disappointed it did not get a chance to meet with Pope Francis.
“It’s the pope’s loss,” he said, after the Vatican stated it never received the group’s request for a meeting.
Following Pell’s testimony, the Vatican said the “sensationalist” media coverage of the hearing gave the impression the Catholic church had done little or nothing to address the issue of clergy sex abuse, when that was not the case.
The Catholic church also praised Pell for his “dignified and coherent” personal testimony, and the willingness of survivors to engage with the Vatican.
Ridsdale said none of the survivors were satisfied with Pell’s evidence or the Catholic church’s response to it.
“You’ve got to be a delusional human being to even imagine that’s the truth,” he said. “A very small step was made, but none of us felt that the evidence he gave was representative of the man we met in the room.”
The survivors say Pell had been listening to them in private meetings, yet appears to be dismissive of them in public.
“The person up on the stand was the bureaucrat, he was the corporate man,” Ridsdale said. “None of us were satisfied with his evidence. Not in the slightest.”
A meeting in Rome between Pell and abuse survivors after the hearing ended with Australia’s highest ranking Catholic churchman promising to work with the Ballarat community to set up a centre to support victims.
In September, the commission recommended a national redress scheme, estimated to cost $4.3bn over 10 years and underwritten by the federal government.
The scheme would be largely funded by the institutions in which the abuse occurred, but should be run by an independent board under the auspices of the federal government to ensure equity for all survivors, it said.
Labor has pledged its support for a national redress scheme.
The federal government has said it will work with states and territories to develop a nationally consistent redress scheme, with the main responsibility residing with the jurisdiction where the offence took place, not the commonwealth.